Apple Debuts iBeacon Location Technology in U.S. Stores

Apple Debuts iBeacon Technology in U.S. StoresHow can a retailer effectively reach consumers in-store and educate them about deals that might be of particular interest?  Apple’s iBeacon technology is looking to accomplish both, and after a successful run with the MLB’s ‘At the Ballpark’ mobile app at Citifield, Apple has now installed the location technology into its own retail stores.

Last Friday, the technology debuted in 254 Apple stores in the U.S.  Visitors with Bluetooth on and iOS7 on their mobile device receive messages about products, events and other info — provided they’ve downloaded the Apple Store app and allow it to send notices based on location, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Using iBeacon, the mobile app delivers personal information to users based on their current location in-store.  Consumers will receive notice if a computer they ordered is ready for pickup, and may get messages about upgrading and/or trading in old phones when they walk by the iPhone section.

How is iBeacon different than using GPS for geo-location? Transmission through Bluetooth wireless technology gives your phone precise information about where you are in the store, while GPS transmitters don’t work well indoors and don’t distinguish well between locations only a few feet apart.

And what about privacy?  Are consumers willing to give retailers precise information about their location? While the technology may raise privacy concerns among some users, according to a study by mobile marketing firm Swirl Network, 77% of consumers are ok with sharing location data “in exchange for something of value.” And out of the 1,000 consumers surveyed during November, 80% said they would use retailer apps more often while shopping in-store if those apps delivered sales and promotion alerts.

Consumers are looking for apps with content that is more relevant to their interests and location; 62% of survey respondents said such content would increase their use of retailer mobile apps. The MLB will use iBeacon next year – via the ‘At The Ballpark’ app – at multiple ballparks.  Where do you expect to see this technology pop up next?

Privacy concerns aside, iBeacon offers specific, relevant information for consumers while they are in-store. How else might this technology be used to address user needs, in realtime — and will other tech companies step up and create their own?